Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Imagine a library…

I’ve recently had the good fortune to tour a number of academic libraries. It’s always an interesting experience in today’s environment, as you will encounter everything from despair to inspiration on these tours. I just experienced a really inspirational library, Binghamton University Libraries (SUNY), led by an equally inspirational librarian, John Meador and his team of managers. Why did I find it so inspirational?

The answer is found in the way John and his team are meeting the economic challenges of today. I think it fair to say that he has faced the enemy, embraced it and overcome it. Despite the economic conditions in New York, imagine a library that:
  • Is open 24 hours a day, 6 days a week in order to accommodate end-user needs.
  • Where when you walk in you’re met by a greeter who provides friendliness and a guiding hand.
  • Digitizes articles on demand and emails them to the requesting staff.
  • Engaged in social networking in a big way, via Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and instant messaging in order to ensure they’re where their users are located.
  • Collapses service points to facilitate one-stop shopping.
  • Provides separate spaces for information commons, study rooms, quiet rooms and an area for cell phone usage.
  • Focuses on making the physical and virtual library easy to use.
  • Provides multiple search interfaces so that users can work with a search system tailored to meet their needs.
Bottom line, you don’t have to just imagine a library like that, John and his team are doing it at Binghamton University.

Not surprisingly, they regularly survey users on their satisfaction with library services and the last survey showed the library scoring a 95.9% for highest overall satisfaction of all their Binghamton University experiences. How many libraries can claim that level of satisfaction on their campus? Furthermore, this service attitude is palpable across the organization. Every staff member you speak with has this focus.

I have a deep admiration for libraries that are run this way. In these times, it’s not an easy thing to do. Yet it shows it can be done. John and his team are setting an example for all libraries.

If you’re running a library, think about the approach taken at Binghamton and how you might use some of their ideas. I hope you’ll find them as inspirational as I did.